been there ever since. They are mechanics and were employed there as such. Not being able to procure passes they escaped to Paducah, Ky., took a boat for this place and immediately on their arrival here took passage on the Platte Valley for Saint Louis en route for Quincy, I. ., their home.
They never were employed as spies and never acted as such. They had no interview with the commanding general here and did not volunteer any information, and did not come here for that purpose. They can in no just sense be considered spies; they were simply Northern men who had availed themselves of an opportunity to escape to their homes and families.
If Thompson will release tem and give them safe escort to our lies you will release such number of his men as he may think just and give them safe escort beyond our lines.
In communicating with Thompson you will send him a copy of this letter.
By order of General Grant, commanding:
WM. S. HILLYER,
Captain and Aide-de-Camp.
HDQRS. FIRST MIL. DIST., MISSOURI STATE GUARD,
Camp Newar New Madrid, November -, 1861.
Brigadier General U. S. GRANT, Cairo, Ill.:
Yours of the 21st, through Colonel J. B. Plummer, commandant of Cape Girardeau, is at hand. The prisoners William McMillan and James Merkle were immediately forwarded to General Polk at Columbia, and I will send your letter in reference to them directly to him.
I will state in reference to these men that when I examined the steam-boat Platte Valley I found drawings purpoting to be plans of the fortifications of Columbus and upon inquiry found McMillan and Merkle had either made the drawings of furnished the information, and from some parties on the boat I learned they had been very boastful of their success and the value of the information they had acquired.
I understand they have been sent to Memphis, but I will immediately lay your statement before General Polk, and although he may object to their leaving the Confederacy at this time (as they also worked at Columbia), yet I believe your statement will be sufficient to have them released from confinement.
Yours, most respectfully,
M. JEFF. THOMPSON,
HEADQUARTERS PENINSULAR BRIGADE,
Drummondtown, Va., November 22, 1861.
Commanding Department of Pennsylvania.
GENERAL: I beg leave to inform you that the major portion of this command is now in camp at this place. * * * I have secured the persons of two captains and one lieutenant of the Confederate Army, and am using active efforts to find Smith, Winder, Finney and other leading spirits of the late rebels forces on this peninsula. I take it for granted that these will be sent to Fort McHenry, but as they claim
10 R R - SERIES II, VOL II